Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, March 06, 2003  

The latest casualty of credibility in the Bush White House is Colin Powell, who has shrilly tried to defend the we-do-too-have-evidence line. Rolling out the usual crap—lots on VX—and new whoppers: “new intelligence” about chemical and biological weapons. Anything you’d like to cite specifically, Mr. Secretary? Well, no.

This leaves exactly no credible voices anywhere in the administration. Recall that in early 2001, we heard a great deal from the eminently credible Dick Cheney. Fawning conservatives didn’t even mind the suggestion that he was actually running the country: they gave Bush credit for “delegation.” Ah, but then came the energy summit—that is, the secret meetings with oil companies—and we haven’t heard much from Cheney since.

Emerge John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld, the domestic and foreign champions who would make post-9/11 America a safe place. Ashcroft boldly strode forth with strong words, but lost favor when the words included calling Democrats un-American. Meanwhile, Rummy was chummy with the press as he swaggered about US dominance in Afghanistan. That was, until the administration abandoned the bin Laden thread, after which Rummy seemed like a bad reminder about the administration’s poor follow-through. Not a point they wished to emphasize on the eve of an invasion of Iraq.

The odd man out, Colin Powell, tempered the aggression and clarity of the White House voice, and soothed foreign anxieties. Increasingly, his was the only voice heard overseas. And so, when he appeared in front of the UN last month with Power Point and sinister vials, the sheer force of his credibility won the day. But the “evidence,” when people got back around to it, turned out to be a Hollywood show: pretty to look at, but it didn’t stay with you.

He’s spent the past weeks joining the chorus of White House scolders, shrill because he’s embarrassed to have to repeat such tripe. All the while things stayed bad with the unimpressed world. Rummy poured gas on the fire in Germany, and Kim Jong Il made sure everyone was clear about the difference between an actual threat and a White House threat. Things look especially grim now that Turkey, a country teetering on default, blew off $26 billion and right of tyranny over Iraqi Kurds to poke America in the eye. Then radioed the ships off-shore and told them to take their toys elsewhere.

Things can’t really get any worse diplomatically. Pretty much the rest of the world hates the US, even if some leaders support it. After an Iraqi invasion, some will fall in line, because power attracts friends. But America’s authority—moral, diplomatic—is gone. Nobody really like the fact that we were so powerful in the first place, and they really despised being lectured to. For the Bushies, it’s even worse: if ever they need to go to the world for help, who will be their voice? They’ve managed to destroy the one advantage they had in Colin Powell.

Nothing left for them to do but start bombing.

posted by Jeff | 11:39 AM |
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